Wood Supply

This winter, for the first time in years, we started the heating season with a completely full wood shed. This lets us definitively calculate how much wood we go through.

Today we used up the second of five bays, which is pretty good for this leaky old house. We made some changes this year to reduce our heating requirements, mainly putting in a door between the kitchen and the back hallway to close off an entire wing of the house — the “back forty” as we refer to it. Since the kids are now out of the house there is no need to heat it on a regular basis. Despite the cold weather, it has stayed above freezing back there (barely, at times) but as a precaution I shut off the water to that section of the house. (One thing the previous owner did right in his renovations was to have the plumbing zoned.)

We are also in the process (I always seem to “be in the process” of things rather than “done with” them!) of adding Foil / Double Bubble / Foil insulation in the cellars.

The changes have helped — despite a record-cold December, I have been hauling in 2 – 3 loads of wood a day as opposed to the 4 loads in years past. The long underwear has also stayed in the drawers so far this year.

New Hearth II

Four summers ago we rebuilt our kitchen hearth. This year we tackled the living room hearth.


Here is what the hearth looked like before we started this project. I had added a ceramic-tile-over-cement-board extension in front of the rather shallow brick hearth in order to meet building code for wood stove clearances. This picture was also taken before we had granite installed surrounding the firebox.

Here is what the hearth looked like before we started this project. I had added a ceramic-tile-over-cement-board extension in front of the rather shallow brick hearth in order to meet building code for wood stove clearances. This picture was also taken before we had granite installed surrounding the firebox.


Here we are getting started. We have moved the 325-pound wood stove aside and have removed the tile from the hearth extension. You can also see how much better things look since we had the granite surround installed several year ago.

Here we are getting started. We have moved the 325-pound wood stove aside and have removed the tile from the hearth extension. You can also see how much better things look since we had the granite surround installed several year ago.


The brick hearth was dry-laid, as was the stone floor in the firebox, so deconstruction was pretty easy (if not a little dusty!) After removing the bottom board you can see straight into the cellar and that over half the width of the brick hearth was over the thick stone foundation of the house. We also unearthed an interesting find: a rusted metal cylindrical canister, about 1½" in diameter and 2½" long.

The brick hearth was dry-laid, as was the stone floor in the firebox, so deconstruction was pretty easy (if not a little dusty!) After removing the bottom board you can see straight into the cellar and that over half the width of the brick hearth was over the thick stone foundation of the house. We also unearthed an interesting find: a rusted metal cylindrical canister, about 1½” in diameter and 2½” long.


Inside the canister was a collection of newspaper and magazine clippings, some dated 1889. They are almost all concerned with ladies' skin and health issues, information on various tinctures, salves, etc. And about those prices: $1 in 1889 would be about $24 today, so they were not cheap! Our house was built in 1835. Was the hearth rebuilt in 1896? Or perhaps a young lady hid the canister in the existing hearth (it was dry-laid so it would have been easy to remove/replace a brick). We'll never know for sure.

Inside the canister was a collection of newspaper and magazine clippings, some dated 1889. They are almost all concerned with ladies’ skin and health issues, information on various tinctures, salves, etc. And about those prices: $1 in 1889 would be about $24 today, so they were not cheap! Our house was built in 1835. Was the hearth rebuilt in 1896? Or perhaps a young lady hid the canister in the existing hearth (it was dry-laid so it would have been easy to remove/replace a brick). We’ll never know for sure.


One of the challenges in renovating an old house is that nothing is square, level, or plumb. It took several rounds of tweaking with this cardboard template to achieve the exact location for the new hearth, which is both wider and deeper than the old one.

One of the challenges in renovating an old house is that nothing is square, level, or plumb. It took several rounds of tweaking with this cardboard template to achieve the exact location for the new hearth, which is both wider and deeper than the old one.


A fair amount of work with the circular saw, reciprocating saw, hand saw, belt sander, and chisel was required to remove the flooring and true the hole. The next step: cut out the beam running through the middle (this beam ran along the front of the original hearth). Here you can see the tops of the 2x4's that I screwed onto the beam to keep it from falling down when I cut it. In the foreground, you can also see the 'tool multiplication effect' that always dogs a project of this scale.

A fair amount of work with the circular saw, reciprocating saw, hand saw, belt sander, and chisel was required to remove the flooring and true the hole. The next step: cut out the beam running through the middle (this beam ran along the front of the original hearth). Here you can see the tops of the 2×4’s that I screwed onto the beam to keep it from falling down when I cut it. In the foreground, you can also see the ‘tool multiplication effect’ that always dogs a project of this scale.


The beam removal went smoothly. You can see the temporary diagonal bracing I put in to help support the floor until the new framing is installed. You can also see the end of the existing I-beam that is an important component of the support structure for the new hearth.

The beam removal went smoothly. You can see the temporary diagonal bracing I put in to help support the floor until the new framing is installed. You can also see the end of the existing I-beam that is an important component of the support structure for the new hearth.


The new framing is complete. I used double 2x8's for the new joists, with the ends resting on the stone foundation and joist hangers for connecting with the cross joists. The interior of the hole has a 2x4 ledger screwed in place. I cantilevered a 2x8 from the I-beam for a center support; the center cross-beam is a 2x4.

The new framing is complete. I used double 2×8’s for the new joists, with the ends resting on the stone foundation and joist hangers for connecting with the cross joists. The interior of the hole has a 2×4 ledger screwed in place. I cantilevered a 2×8 from the I-beam for a center support; the center cross-beam is a 2×4.


The plywood (left over from the 2005 Apothedairy project) has been screwed in place. The rebar is keyed into the existing stonework. The tar paper is in place over the dirt/rubble floor of the firebox. 12 bags of concrete mix are at the ready. The goal is a 3½" level slab, with ½" cement board thin-set-mortared on top for a smooth base for the granite slab.

The plywood (left over from the 2005 Apothedairy project) has been screwed in place. The rebar is keyed into the existing stonework. The tar paper is in place over the dirt/rubble floor of the firebox. 12 bags of concrete mix are at the ready. The goal is a 3½” level slab, with ½” cement board thin-set-mortared on top for a smooth base for the granite slab.


I decided to mix the concrete outside in the wheelbarrow 2 bags at a time, then wheel it in and dump it. Concrete is heavy and messy so we prepped by taping down cardboard and using plywood scraps on top for a lane and outside as a ramp on which to roll the 'barrow.

I decided to mix the concrete outside in the wheelbarrow 2 bags at a time, then wheel it in and dump it. Concrete is heavy and messy so we prepped by taping down cardboard and using plywood scraps on top for a lane and outside as a ramp on which to roll the ‘barrow.


I was pretty pleased with myself for how good the pour looked (and for my home-made bull float that you see here). Once it set, though, I discovered that it had a pretty severe hump in the middle. I ended up mixing and spreading small batches of mortar to try and level it out. This was only partially successful, and after discussing the situation with the granite installers, we opted to nix the planned cement board overlay and have the granite slab installed on a fresh bed of mortar.

I was pretty pleased with myself for how good the pour looked (and for my home-made bull float that you see here). Once it set, though, I discovered that it had a pretty severe hump in the middle. I ended up mixing and spreading small batches of mortar to try and level it out. This was only partially successful, and after discussing the situation with the granite installers, we opted to nix the planned cement board overlay and have the granite slab installed on a fresh bed of mortar.


The installers (A & S Marble Granite) did a fantastic job cutting and fitting a 1¼"-thick single slab around the mantle molding and into the firebox. The stone we chose is Giallo Fiorito, a yellow granite from Brazil. It is the same granite we used around the firebox, though a slightly different shade.

The installers (A & S Marble Granite) did a fantastic job cutting and fitting a 1¼"-thick single slab around the mantle molding and into the firebox. The stone we chose is Giallo Fiorito, a yellow granite from Brazil. It is the same granite we used around the firebox, though a slightly different shade.


Kirsten wanted to paint the interior of the firebox to brighten it up. I was skeptical about using latex paint so close to a hot stovepipe, but I applied my Google-Fu skills and unearthed the research paper "NIST GCR 02-832 - Flammability Characteristic of Painted Concrete Blocks" which describes lab experiments on, yes, painted concrete blocks. The lowest ignition temperature they found for latex paint was 1200°F -- plenty of leeway over the normal 300° - 550° operating flue range -- so I painted it using the same off-white color of the mantel trim.

Kirsten wanted to paint the interior of the firebox to brighten it up. I was skeptical about using latex paint so close to a hot stovepipe, but I applied my Google-Fu skills and unearthed the research paper “NIST GCR 02-832 – Flammability Characteristic of Painted Concrete Blocks” which describes lab experiments on, yes, painted concrete blocks. The lowest ignition temperature they found for latex paint was 1200°F — plenty of leeway over the normal 300° – 550° operating flue range — so I painted it using the same off-white color of the mantel trim.


The finished project, just in time for the heating season.

The finished project, just in time for the heating season.


Ready for the Snow

It just started snowing here at 9:20am, the start of what they say will be 36 hours and up to 2 feet of snow. The goats have hay, the chickens have feed, and we are ready to hunker down by the woodstoves. We hauled in three times our daily ration of wood; The upper picture is the larger kitchen stove, the lower one is the smaller living room stove.

Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful…

… but the fire is so delightful! When the weather turns cold, the cats scope out their spots in front of the living room woodstove. That’s Sunny in the foreground and Rupert up closest to the stove.

New Hearth

This summer we undertook the project of rebuilding our kitchen hearth. Here is what it used to look like — a fairly shallow original brick portion plus a tile over cement board apron that I added for our woodstove. [This is an older photo taken before we added a granite surround and changed the color scheme.]
Old Hearth

The original hearth was brick laid over dry mortar. After removing it, we shored up the support in the cellar with a couple of beams and lally columns, and extended the floorboard cut out.
Hearth rebuild

We then poured a 3-inch concrete slab and laid some greenish flagstone with reddish mortar. We think that it turned out quite fine along with the marble we have recently had installed around the firebox. It’ll be woodstove season here before you know it.
New Hearth

[Update: We later replaced the living room hearth and have a more detailed post up about that project.]

Christmas Just Past

This is a loblolloy pine the kids brought home from school as a seedling when we first moved here in 1998. Things were so overgrown at that time we just stuck it in the ground next to the driveway until we could figure out where it should go permanently. It steadily grew and by this year it was too large to transplant. It made a beautiful christmas tree, though, and is one of our favorites — the openness and feathery long needles show off the ornaments well. That is our cat Rupert in the foreground enjoying the heat from the woodstove.

A Full Woodshed

This year Eric built two new bays onto our woodshed. This 6-cord supply (12 tons!) should last us most of the winter.

I’m A LumberJack And I’m OK

Before we can start on the actual fence part of our 2003 Fencing Project we had to remove trees from the old pasture we are trying to reclaim. The spectacle was at times impressive — one massive, leaning sycamore shook the ground when it fell. In two days we felled and limbed 20 trees. They will be heating the house before too much longer.

Winter Is Over…

… but the memory lingers. Eric is spending this week cutting and splitting firewood for next winter.

Catnap

What better place to enjoy a catnap on a snowy evening than in front of a blazing woodstove?

Cold Firewood

It’s C O L D ! ! ! Last night’s low out on our veranda was 7°F, it was 9 the night before, and today’s high — the HIGH — was 16. It has also been icy and snowy lately so the wood I split a few weeks ago is still pretty wet so we’ve been stacking ‘round the woodstoves so it can dry before we burn it. Quite the ritual what with turning and rotating each piece from the less hot to the hottest spots near the stove. The stoves are voracious when it is this unrelentingly cold and windy — did I mention the 25 mph winds today? — and we have to feed them every 30 – 40 minutes all day and most of the night, too. Can’t wait for a thaw, even a small one.

Stocking Up On Firewood

We’re taking advantage of a little break in the cold icy weather to put up more firewood. Most years we buy our wood already cut and split, but this year a generous neighbor has offered us a bunch of seasoned logs ready to cut and split. Here you see we’ve cut some of the logs (mostly locust and sycamore) to length. Next we need to split it — our neighbor even included the loan of their 22-ton hydraulic splitter! By doing this ourselves this year we are saving enough money to more than pay for our new Husqvarna 346XP 20″ chainsaw.

Happiness is Full Woodshed

We heat our big old house entirely with wood. It takes alot of wood to keep both woodstoves going in the cold weather so we try to keep this shed full.

Happiness is Full Woodshed [Continued]

Our cat Sunny likes it, too.